October 1988

Nuclear Deterrence Is Morally Acceptable

Your editorial (and John Finnis’s article) supporting uni­lateral nuclear disarmament in the July-August issue distressed me.

Neither the Magisterium nor Pope John Paul II requires a peo­ple to commit national suicide in order to be sinless. In opposition to your editorial (and to Finnis), the Pope has said that nuclear de­terrence is under present condi­tions “morally acceptable.”

Bryant Burroughs
Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Ed. Note: The difference be­tween the Pope’s and Finnis’s po­sition is a matter of factual assess­ment. Briefly, Finnis contends that Western nuclear arsenals are directed at civilians “as such,” contrary to what Western leaders claim. If and when the papacy comes to share the factual assess­ment of Finnis and others, we do not doubt that the papacy will, in harmony with Catholic moral teaching that what it is wrong to do it is wrong to intend, declare nuclear deterrence morally unac­ceptable. (Finnis is a member of the Pontifical Theological Com­mission, so stay tuned!)

Holiness, the American Way

I strongly disagree with your July-August editorial which, if it did not come right out and say it, endorsed a Soviet takeover of the U.S. as the consequence of a “Catholic” and “moral” decision to unilaterally disarm our country of nuclear weapons. You seem to say that the suffering brought about by such Soviet domination should actually be accepted as a blessing, a way to be “squeezed out like lemon” and arrive at Heaven’s gate puri­fied and holy.

Forgive me, but give me whatever time necessary in Pur­gatory to arrive at Heaven’s gate holy if the alternative is for us to surrender to an atheistic totali­tarian regime that seeks only to dominate and satisfy its lust for power. I’m only recalling the So­viet Union’s track record.

We can and will be squeezed out like lemons in many other ways here in this (to use your in­disputable adjectives) consumeristic, hedonistic, decadent, and materialistic society of ours with­out the “help” of the Soviets, but rather in obedience to the Gospel. Accepting sickness and our weaknesses, rejecting sin and ancient temptations in modern disguise, praying regularly and fervently — these are means to be “squeezed out” too. These are the everyday means, possible and expected of all Christians. On the face of it these means are not considered extraordinary or he­roic, but they could also be de­scribed as the means to a slow martyrdom resulting from attempting to truly be faithful to Jesus Christ today.

The early Church martyrs were slain by a secular power that would not allow them reli­gious freedom. These were great saints who would rather be true to Jesus Christ than to disavow him. No doubt there are today great saints all over the world be­ing true to Christ at great person­al expense and suffering. No doubt there would be many saints born here from the suffering en­dured if the Soviet Union were to dominate us after we laid down our arms. You perhaps? Perhaps even me?

But to ask for it? To vol­unteer our country for such a fate? This flies in the face of countless thousands who have paid with their lives the cost of our present freedom (abused as it has been). And this flies in the face of the hundreds of thousands who have served and sacrificed in countless ways in the armed forc­es for our protection and secur­ity from just such Soviet domina­tion. Were these sacrifices also examples of God’s “squeezing”? I think so.

Douglas J. Fine
New Orleans, Louisiana

Ed. Note: The point of the editorial and the Finnis article was not that we should seek out martyrdom. The argument for unilateral nuclear disarmament was based on moral reasoning in the context of perceived reality. That some sort of martyrdom might well follow was faced squarely — and, we hope, in a Christian spirit.

The Christian Position: Kill Everyone Only Once?

My first impression of the Christian position on nuclear war was that we must be against nu­clear overkill, which seemed to me to mean that Christians can only have enough weapons to kill everyone once. In the July-August NOR, John Finnis ends this nonsense. He also points out some­thing which I find difficult to convey to my liberal friends: that nuclear disarmament must be unilateral and that this will be followed by Soviet domination. My conservative instincts rebel against this, but it is clear that the Babylonian captivity didn’t destroy the Jews. Soviet domina­tion probably wouldn’t last more than a hundred years and I sus­pect it would benefit Christian­ity. I would like to think that ev­en if I am a conservative and usu­ally vote Republican, I am still an aspiring Christian, though a hun­dred years is a long time.

W.M. Pallies
Haddon Heights, New Jersey

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